Thursday, May 05, 2005

God-Fearing Skeptics

David Brooks has an interesting column on the role of religion in public life. He uses our 16th President as an example of one who wasn't ashamed to exclaim his faith in God, but also struggled with doubt and uncertainty. This is a worthwhile quote:

Today, a lot of us are stuck in Lincoln's land. We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists. We reject the smug ignorance of, say, a Robert Kuttner, who recently argued that the culture war is a contest between enlightened reason and dogmatic absolutism. But neither can we share the conviction of the orthodox believers, like the new pope, who find maximum freedom in obedience to eternal truth. We're a little nervous about the perfectionism that often infects evangelical politics, the rush to crash through procedural checks and balances in order to reach the point of maximum moral correctness.

Those of us stuck here in this wrestling-with-faith world find Lincoln to be our guide and navigator. Lincoln had enough firm conviction to lead a great moral crusade, but his zeal was tempered by doubt, and his governing style was dispassionate.

I can say that I am one of those people in the middle. Of course, being a minister, the sacred is a major part of my life. As a black minister, I stand in a tradition that thinks faith has something to say about what is going on in our world. Martin Luther King Jr. was an example of someone who spoke of his faith proudly and yet didn't try to topple the American way of government as some modern far right religionists have done.

I'm not comfortable with those who say that religion is a private matter. While it is a personal issue, it can't be private. Again, as an African American, I know that religion has always been a public matter. We can't leave our faith at home, it goes where we go. And yet, I am fearful of those on the Religious Right who exhibit some kind of chauvanism that seems more concerned with being right than with being loving.

Religion has been and still is a force for good in society. Brooks talks about all the good that evangelicals have done. Jews were a vital part of the civil rights movement. The problem to me is not if religion about if it should have role in public life, but what kind of role it should have. The Religious Right want religion to have the force of government to remake society to their own limited viewpoint. My view, and the view of others, I think, is more humble: religion must be the voice of moral persuasion; to argue for justice and care for those less well off. It's one where one can be devout, but also knows that we don't know everything and must make room for others. We aren't God, so we only know a bit of God's truth. That should make us more humble as we religious fold make our way in the public square.

I want to write more, but I have other things to do.


Post a Comment

<< Home

!-- End .box -->